The Ian Gibson column: the suspension of disbelief

Comics-legend Ian Gibon this week talks about the passage of time, and the problem of immediacy, when drawing a comic strip

A genuine British comics legend: Ian Gibson

It’s no use me pretending that I can comment on current comics or be any kind of critic about new trends. I don’t read comics and I don’t see any new ones. I’m sheltered down here on the south coast. The nearest comic shop is some 40 odd miles away and on top of that nobody tells me anything anyway.

What I do feel qualified to talk about is how to make comics. That is: the creation process.

I consider comics a quite subversive medium. They are pretty user friendly and easily digested. What the reader possibly doesn’t realise is that he or she is being coerced into viewing the world the way the artist creates it. It’s a matter of convincing the audience that the world you create is real – the old ‘suspension of disbelief’ thingy. This allows for the subversion to come into play. Making the reader look at the world through different eyes. What you include and exclude from your images shapes the character of the world.

But that is only the start.

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The storytelling is done through design and layout, angle of view and perspective.I like to make a design that creates a rhythmic flow throughout the page. An easy transition from one image to the next, and focusing on important aspects of the story in the process. A good design guides the eye through the page in an effortless motion, without jumps or confusions. But also allows the eye to retrace the pattern to enjoy the rhythm of the design. A seductive process which subliminally adds to the pleasure of the reading experience.

Okay! I don’t always have time to get it right. Deadlines can destroy your best laid plans. But that’s the intention anyway.

One of my favourite techniques involves the ‘time’ element of a story. How do you convey the idea of time having passed and how do you suggest immediacy?

The immediate thing is pretty obvious in that you stick with a perspective and angle of view and, if necessary, play with your ‘zoom’ function. And if a change in angle of view is required, sticking to scale may suffice. But the passage of time is another matter. My personal preference is for a change of angle, viewpoint or perspective, or any mixture so long as it doesn’t create confusion. Too often I see artists using change of angle without any just cause within the story. Doing it just for the sake of something different in a ‘fight scene’ for example, assuming that this makes for a more dramatic scene.  But this takes away the immediacy of the fight and often leaves the viewer wondering ‘what’s going on?’

I prefer subtle changes of angle that take only an instant to understand, but subliminally have suggested that it has taken time for the story to progress.

But on the subject of time and space – I’ve used up my allocation already!Maybe I’ll return with more if anyone is interested..?

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Ian Gibson writes regularly for Den of Geek. His last column can be found here.

And you can find his own website here